DID# Wagner – Liebestod from Tristan and Isolde

In the Second World War, my dad was flying in the arse end of bombers around Europe and North Africa, a hazardous career choice for a teenager. Once Europe was liberated, musical events were staged in celebration, and he always spoke with great affection about hearing some of the great singers and orchestras at that time. I don’t know if he heard Kirsten Flagsted during that period — seems unlikely — but her singing this was his favourite.

In my own teens, I was listening mostly to the late Romantics, Tchaikovsky and Beethoven. That was where I discovered that music without lyrics could be about something, and perhaps something you couldn’t express well in words, but which could make emotional sense, being thrilling or tragic or consoling. But the piece that really grabbed me by the collar and belt and threw me out of the back of the ‘plane was this one. A slow avalanche of sound, in which the voice is an instrument and the instruments say things… Love and death and the climactic structure of orgasm, a heady mix for a teenager, let alone an old fart like me.

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